Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with the lovely Ellie and Louise Macnamara, the twin sisters who make up the band Heathers. They were in Galway ahead of their Galway Arts Festival performance at the Roisin Dubh last night.
Their music is great, and they’re great. Have a read below of the interview which covered the duo’s musical journey from family gatherings, to sleeping on floors, to the Oscars! And, of course, Maltesers.
Katy: Have you always played music together?
Ellie: When we were younger we’d have family gatherings and we’d be forced to sing together. And then we kind of got to the teenage years, and we were really, really, shy, and wouldn’t sing at all. Then when we were in secondary school we joined the school choir and that kind of taught us to harmonize and gave us that little bit of confidence we needed to maybe try and sing again. And then in 2007 we formed Heathers, and that was really the start of us writing our own music and performing together.
K: Is there music in your family?
Louise: Yeah, both our parents are great singers, and our brother is in so many different bands, and grew up being in so many different bands. I think that encouraged us to start playing music, and to start a band together. Our younger sister also has an amazing voice, so we’re all pretty musical. We’ve been playing the piano since the age of five or six. And then I started guitar at seventeen.
E: Yeah, I guess we are pretty musical. We listen to a lot of music as well!
K: When did you have your first gig?
L: The first ever gig we played, wasn’t so much a gig… We played at a gathering up in Killiney Hill. That was the first time we ever played together…
E: In front of people. Our own music.
L: Then the second time was our friend Alex’s 18th birthday. We played in a venue called The Lower Deck in Dublin. It’s a venue we played a lot at when we started out. Yeah, that was just the two of us. I think that was one of the only gigs we’ve ever played sitting down. Since then it’s standing up the whole time. And then after that…
E: Was it supporting Nine Lives?..
L: ... in the Voodoo Lounge.
E: And we weren’t eighteen, so we weren’t actually allowed in. I remember hiding in the toilets until we played because the bouncers were going to throw us out!
K: Then your debut album was released in 2008.. An exciting time?
L: Yeah, like, when we started Heathers we didn’t even have plans of releasing anything. We were putting on gigs, kind of DIY pub gigs, and then I wrote a song. I went into Ellie’s room, Ellie put some harmonies to it, and it kind of took off from there! We had around four, maybe five songs, by the summer of fifth year in 2007. And it was maybe our fourth gig, the one after the Voodoo Lounge, we played with an American band who were touring over here, who we were big fans of, called Ghost Mice. We played with them in an old abandoned tea house on Killiney beach, and Chris from Ghost Mice who runs a record label called Plan-It-X Records in the States, really liked our music and said I want you to write enough songs so that I can release a record of yours on my label and then maybe we can tour together! And that’s what we did! We wrote enough songs for an album. Eleven songs altogether. We recorded it during our Mocks, so that was maybe January/February 2008. Then we released it the week before our Leaving Cert. It was crazy!
E: And our parents said that if we worked hard at our Leaving Cert that they’d let us go to America.
L: Yeah, so then we went on tour with Ghost Mice that summer. 34 gigs in 30 days. It was so hectic, but an absolutely amazing experience. Since then, a lot of things have happened… In 2010 we re-released Here, Not There when we got Remember When, the first single on the album, on the Discover Ireland ad. We set up our own record label – Aunthill Records.
K: Did a lot change with that Discover Ireland ad?
E: I think it really opened a lot of doors for us, because it got our music out there for so many more people who otherwise may never have heard our songs. I think a lot of the things that happened after that were slightly as a result of that ad. It ran for three years, which is incredible. I’m sure some people are sick of it. But It really boosted our career. We ended up writing our second album, and who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have written a second album… I don’t know. Maybe we would… But it was wonderful for us.
K: And then you released the second album last year. And now you’re playing at the Galway Arts Festival… What has been the ‘stand-out’ moment for you?
L: Definitely those tours of the States that we did. I’ll never forget them. They were the kind of tours that we’ll never do again. We were traveling around in a mini van, no air conditioning, staying on people’s floors… Getting to see the whole country, and experiencing it in a different way. Now when we go touring in the States or Canada we have a band and it’s more so playing in venues and staying in hotels. It’s a completely different experience.
E: I think my biggest standout moment was in February, when we played at a pre-Oscars party in LA. There was a moment where we were playing and Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams were sitting where you are right now – that close. It’s one of those moments where you’re singing your song and you’re kind of making eye contact with people in the audience then you’re like, “What the HELL!!?”.
L: All I could think was, “E.T.”
E: And even just recording and releasing our second album. I can’t believe we’ve written and released two albums! I never thought we’d do one album! It’s pretty amazing, and we’ve got to see so many amazing places and meet so many wonderful people. There’s been a lot of highlights.
K: You’re involved with social media a lot between Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Do you think that’s important to keep in contact with fans?
E: I think it kind of personalizes everything a little bit. Personally, with bands and artists I like, I love going on Twitter and seeing them say something about what they’re doing, or what they’re up to, it makes it all a little bit more intimate. I love it! It’s important to have that little bit of a connection with people who like your music, and buy your music, and want to see you play. It’s cool, because you can control it, and let out as much as you want to. And also just for staying in touch with people, and getting information out there about gigs or if we’re releasing something. It’s a wonderful way to just get everything out to everyone.
K: What’s next for Heathers?
E: Well, we‘re really excited about tonight. Then we’re going to head off to Germany at the end of July because we’re releasing our album in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland!
L: And I think we’re going to have an Irish tour in September/October time, so we’re going to be releasing dates for that soon.. in the coming weeks. And then we’re writing a lot, constantly writing. When we’re not touring, we’re writing. So hopefully, maybe a release of something in the coming months or year or so. We’ll see!
K: Finally…. My quick questions!
Favorite song or album right now? Or ever… if you can answer that.
L: Can I answer right now?
L: You’re saying Graceland.. I would say Haim. Don’t Save Me, or Falling. Haim altogether. I’ve been listening to them nonstop recently.
K: Advice for aspiring musicians?
L: Just go for it! There’s so many different ways of getting music out there now, with the internet especially. It’s so easy to record anything, there are so many different programmes for recording… YouTube.. Anything!
E: Be confident.
L: Yeah, have confidence in yourself and just go for it.
E: And don’t give up.
K: A favorite line from a song..
L: Do you know what’s funny actually? ….
E: Are we both the same? Yeah. We’re both the same.
L: … When I listen to music, it would take me maybe, and I’m not joking, fifteen listens or so to actually hear the lyrics. When I listen to a song I always hear the melodies or the beats first. I’m really bad at lyrics.
E: And I’m exactly the same. I’m really really bad with lyrics!
L: I can’t even think…
K: It’s tough. Some people like to email me later..
L: Can we email you?
E: Because the thing is, I’m going to be walking around later…
K: Cat or Dog?
L & E (In unison): CAT.
E: Oh no! Am… We both have a cat, but recently i’ve got more into dogs.. We have a family cat so…
L: Are you a cat or a dog person?
K: Dog. But we never had a cat..
E: And we never had a dog! But I’m kind of slowly moving over…
L: Yeah! I love dogs!
K: And finally… Maltesers or Minstrels?
L: That’s a tough one.
E: I’m going to say Maltesers. Because I love Maltesers and popcorn together. It’s like the best combination!
L: You know, I think I’d go for Minstrels..
L: I love Maltesers, but sometimes I feel them not chocolate-ly enough.
K: That’s what I like!
E: Yeah, I like how you’ve got your little outer shell of chocolate…
E: Great question.
And that’s it! Keep up to date with everything Heathers via: